MIAMI -- With his best hitter in a 0-for-28 skid against the Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez resorted to a little TLC before Saturday's game.
"I gave him a hug," Gonzalez said, of his interaction with Freddie Freeman. "I don't like giving him hugs ... but I did give him a hug today, said, 'If you don't get them today, you'll get them tomorrow.' "
Freeman got the Marlins on Saturday, leaving Jacob Turner in need of a comforting embrace. Freeman's third-inning double snapped his 0-for-29 off Marlins pitching and accounted for two of the five runs the Braves scored off Turner in a 9-5 series-clinching victory.
"We have to do a better job of getting back in the strike zone, throwing strikes and putting the pressure on them, and we have to play better defense," said manager Mike Redmond, after watching his team walk nine (one intentionally) and commit three errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. "It wasn't a good day for us at all."
Since winning 17 of their first 22 at home, the Marlins have regressed at Marlins Park. They've now lost five of their last eight here to the Phillies, Brewers and Braves. The only other time the Marlins lost back-to-back home games was April 6 and 14, at the end of their first homestand (Padres) and start of their second (Nationals).
The difference? Starting pitching.
In the club's first 22 home games, the rotation went 10-3 with a 2.56 ERA and 3.74 strikeouts for every walk issued. In the past eight, the starters are 2-5 with a 4.63 ERA, 1.71 strikeouts per walk and a .316 opponents' batting average (60-for-190).
Coming off his first win in 17 starts his last time out, Turner retired six of the first seven batters he faced. He retired the side in the second on 10 pitches before unraveling in the third and fourth, during which he threw four straight balls four times. Turner needed 53 pitches to get through those two innings and threw just 49.1 percent of them for strikes.
"I just didn't execute at the bottom of the lineup," said Turner, after watching the Braves' seven- and eight-hole hitters reach a combined four times in six plate appearances against him. "Not to take anything away from those guys, but when you don't execute at the bottom, the order turns over. You have guys at the top that are swinging it and you put yourself in a bad situation."
Turner's through seven starts this season has struggled closing out innings. Including the Braves' 5-for-10 Saturday, opponents are hitting .393 (22-for-56) off Turner with two out. Eleven of those hits have come in 24 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.458).
In a 5-0 hole, the Marlins made a game of it thanks to Christian Yelich and Derek Dietrich atop the order. They went a combined 5-for-6 with two triples, three runs and two RBI off Ervin Santana. The rest of the lineup went 2-for-14 with four strikeouts and two double plays against him.
Three two-out hits and a walk off David Carpenter brought the Marlins within a run. Shea Simmons in his major league debut struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia on three pitches with two on to end the inning. Not that it mattered, considering A.J. Ramos gave up three in the ninth.
Santana, in improving to 5-2, guaranteed the Braves depart South Florida after Sunday's matinee in sole possession of first place in the National League East.
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